Context: Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions
BDS is the global movement for a campaign of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. BDS was initiated by Palestinian civil society in 2005. The BDS call was endorsed by 171 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions, and movements. The signatories represent refugees, Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and Palestinian citizens of Israel. The campaign is coordinated by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), established in 2007.
The strategy of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions allows people of conscience to play an effective role in the Palestinian struggle for justice. Now in its 11th year, the BDS movement can count major victories around the world and 100 victories in the US.
In the US, BDS actions, including those coordinated by faith-based and university groups, have educated and mobilized thousands of people. For example, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the United Methodist Church voted to divest from G4S, a large British security company that provides equipment and services to Israeli prisons and checkpoints. Activists, many of them college students, also pressured Bill Gates to divest from G4S and he did so completely in 2014. In 2015, Columbia University divested from G4S. These actions contributed to G4S’s decision to end its business operations in Israel.
The success of the BDS movement has put the lives of Palestinian BDS leaders in even more danger. An April 2016 Amnesty International report calls on the Israeli authorities to end “their long-standing attacks on Palestinian human rights defenders (HRDs)” and “halt the climate of intimidation of HRDs in Israel and the Occupied Territories.” The report notes that “an especially alarming statement came from Israeli Minister of Transport, Intelligence, and Atomic Energy Yisrael Katz, who called on Israel to engage in ‘targeted civil eliminations’ [assassinations] of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence.”
Globally, especially in Western countries, the success of the BDS movement has triggered a well-funded campaign to criminalize BDS advocacy. In Massachusetts, the Alliance for Water Justice in Palestine is one of 61 organizations protesting potential anti-boycott state legislation. To see whether your state is under threat of this unconstitutional violation of free speech, click here.